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I Forgive You – Not Really

Dear Rabbi

Is it right to tell someone that you forgive them even if in your heart you don’t really mean it?


Dear Sandra

The question to consider is, why are you telling them you forgive them when you don’t? Is it because you don’t like the tension and would rather just keep the peace? On some level that suggests that you have forgiven them, because clearly your engagement with them is important to you. Or to put it differently, your relationship with them is more important to you then your own ego.

Or, is it because you don’t want to be seen as, what the Talmud describes, “A stubborn person,” especially where they may have sought your forgiveness. In which case, it is worthwhile bearing in mind how the Talmud emphasises the importance of being “one in mouth and heart” (echad b’peh v’echad bilev). Indeed the Talmud extols the virtue of Jacob’s sons who were consistent in what they felt and how they expressed themselves towards Joseph, even as it was in their negative feelings towards him. The point is, if, for whatever the reason you find it difficult to forgive the other, then don’t just pay lip service. Tell them why. Speak it out. Don’t harbour the grudge within because the only one it’ll be eating up is yourself (and even more so when you know they think you have forgiven even as you haven’t). Finally, one of the central themes of the whole “Selichot” service in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, and again in the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and indeed on Yom Kippur itself, especially at Neilah, is the thirteen attributes of G-d’s mercy (you will be familiar with them as they are sung in many Synagogues). The Talmud tells us that these thirteen attributes are essentially a “secret code,” as it were that G-d gave Moses. It is the secret to achieve atonement even if sometimes undeserving. In doing so, G-d says to Moses, “and so you shall do.” It doesn’t say, “And so you shall ‘say’ rather ‘do.’ By definition, just as G-d is all compassionate and forgiving towards us, if you want to achieve Divine mercy then “so shall you do” – be compassionate and forgiving towards others.”


Mobile Phone Bans – My New Year’s Resolution

Dear Rabbi

Picking up on your response last week about social media, you might think this absurd but I undertook as my resolution for the coming year to ban smartphones from my house altogether. Like your letter writer from last week, my wife is quite displeased with me that I am banning her phone and it has become quite contentious. Can you advise the best way forward?



Dear Tzvi

Just to be clear, you decided to undertake a new resolution for the New Year at everyone else’s expense? Did you even think about discussing it with your other half?

As I wrote last week about social media, Halacha does not have a clearly defined ruling on smartphones. My opinion on the general matter is where do you draw the line? I think the dangers of gossip are increased exponentially on account of mobile phones however kosher they are. These too should be banned especially when our Rabbis tell us that gossiping is a sin tantamount to idolatry, adultery and murder in one.

To reiterate the point from last week, there is an unprecedented amount of Torah being studied as a result and the potential for outreach has increased beyond all fathomable imagination. Should we devise methods by which to ensure we don’t get ensnared into the potential risks? Sure. Should kids be restricted? Certainly. Can it be morally dangerous? Absolutely! But so could many other things. Self-control is a concept no one seems to advocate anymore. Needless to say if one feels they are at risk because of the vast exposure then there are options including filters etc. But that’s your issue and your resolution. What gives you the right to impose that on others without a conversation? Maybe your resolution for the coming year should include respecting your wife as well.


A Yom Kippur Baby

Dear Rabbi

My wife is highly pregnant and due to give birth sometime within the next month. If the baby is born eight days before Yom Kippur can the brit take place on Yom Kippur?


Dear James

The circumcision can take place on Yom Kippur or any other Jewish holiday – if it is the 8th day. But there is no celebratory meal until after the fast, of course. Consult your rabbi if it becomes a reality and wishing your wife an easy birth. What a great way to start the New Year – with a simcha! Long may the happiness continue for you and indeed for everyone.

Wishing all readers a kesiva vachasima tova. A year in which all the negativity dissipates and we experience only true blessings, goodness, immense prosperity and good health for one and all.